Your Opinion Would Be Appreciated

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Today is a day for Gauging Interest, I think.

All of you are our readers, and we love having you on board. While we have a multitude of posts on a multitude of different topics surrounding tea, we want to know what you want to see more of. So, we’re going to start with a quick poll. You can choose up to three of the following options:

Now here’s the not-as-quick (but still quick!) option: are there any particular posts that you would like to see? We have access to a wealth of tea knowledge here at Australian Tea Masters, and chances are if you have a question about something related to tea, we probably a) know the answer, or b) can get to the bottom of it.

In addition, if you have a tea blog you’d like us to look at (or know someone else’s), link us! We’re always keen to network and share useful posts to a wider audience.

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Mastering in Tea

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Last week kicked off yet another wondrous iteration of the Australian Tea Masters Certified Tea Master course. This round’s collective of potential tea masters have attended a three-day intensive, to properly prepare them for the exciting road ahead.

And what a brilliant multicultural group we’ve had! Our training class was filled and brimming with fantastic future tea ideas. Their warmth, enthusiasm and passion for tea was paramount for the success of the very first Certified Tea Master class for 2014.

Each student received 60 of some of the world’s most unique and valued teas, as well as a collection of professional Tea Master tools to begin their journey into tea. Their training was conducted under well-respected individuals in the tea industry, including our black tea specialist, as well as puerh and Japanese tea. We were also very lucky to have our own Honorary Tea Master Steve Carroll present throughout the three days to share his epic adventure throughout Yunnan Province and Taiwan as a roving tea reporter. On top of all this, we also had our very first Tea Master Charity Hobbs take the class to a new level on oolongs, and we experienced new and alternative brew methods for tea.

After our exciting visit to the World Tea Forum in Korea in October and experiencing the amazing teas of Boseong County, it was important to ensure that Korean teas were also included in all future trainings.Over the coming 14 weeks the students will be experiencing Turkish teas as well as other exciting challenges in their weekly classes. They have exciting times to come, and their prosperous faces fill us with the hope that they will each become fabulous, well-trained Certified Tea Masters!Our next Tea Master intake will be in July, with another following in August. You can read more about them (and sign up) here: http://australianteamasters.com.au/become-a-tea-master.

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Coffee and Tea Festival NYC

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The New York City Coffee and Tea Festival is running this weekend, on the 22nd and 23rd of March. This sold-out event is one of the most exciting coffee and tea events in the region and, in addition, is listed as one of the 10 best events in New York.

This event is an amalgamation of 60 worldwide exhibitors and their award-winning, delicious and awe-inspiring products. 25,000 square feet of exhibition hall is the stage for this world-renowned event, and attendees appear from around the United States and all four corners of the globe.

Doors will open at 11PM each day and close at 5PM. Despite the event’s current status as sold out, it does run annually and you will still be able to secure a ticket for next year’s event, when they eventually go on sale.

Check them out at http://www.coffeeandteafestival.com/nyc/.

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Colours and Shapes: Part 2

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We move to our next lesson in understanding tea quality through the leaf in Part 2 of Colours and Shapes. Today, we are focusing particularly on the leaf’s shape, which depends greatly on the type of tea we are examining.

So, let’s say you’ve bought a royal ring tea. It’s a green tea that has been processed into its beautiful trademark ring-shaped coil, shown on the picture above. If this tea has not been made to optimum quality you will notice that these coils are not as tightly furled as they should be – at least in the dry leaf. This means they may not have been processed with the care and attention they deserve, and will not achieve the same wonderful flavours as a high-quality royal ring might.

Texture can also be important, and in any tea where the texture seems different to those of its type, this can indicate any number of things. Texture in particular can be difficult to discern, however it’s important to remember that no green or white tea should be brittle, although some black teas may take on this characteristic. Each different tea has its own set of traits that are considered “optimum” and “normal”, so it really does count to do some research and experience the tea from several different tea producers (if the tea is made by several independent farmers and/or companies).

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Colours and Shapes: Part 1

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Tea leaves are a delicate thing. To ensure optimum quality, they need to be plucked with specific care, the result being a quality leaf that may be fully appreciated. Experienced tea drinkers and masters can often tell you the quality of a leaf just by looking at it, and today we’re going to give you a few clues as to what to look for, so you can too.

Please note, of course, that it takes much time and tea drinking to uncover what the leaf conveys. Experience is paramount in order to separate the subtle differences, but don’t treat it too seriously. Enjoy tea as you always have, and don’t pressure yourself into being able to tell with every single leaf. Your experience will build simply by making the conscious decisions to take a look at your leaves before you simply throw them in your teapot.

One of the first indications of quality that you can look for is whether the leaves of a batch are of a similar size. If not – for example, in a whole leaf tea you can see leaves that are obviously broken and some tea dusts – this can indicate that the tea was processed by machine and thus will be inferior to a manually processed version. Not only that, but it will also mean that the tea will not steep at an exactly even rate. While this is hardly detrimental to a tea’s flavour, at the same time it certainly isn’t favourable.

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Grades of Tea

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There are three major systems of grading black tea and the grades refer to the size and state of the leaf.

The most common incorrectly used grade is OP. This refers to one of the grading categories of tea “orange pekoe”. Often people ask for an orange pekoe tea and they relate it to the flavour but in fact this has nothing to do with flavour, or oranges. It is only the grade of the leaf size.

There are many other grades such as “P” for pekoe and “F” for fannings, which is the size of the leaf commonly used for tea bags. Usually the more letters the better quality the tea.

There is a lot to learn about grading and this varies in different countries. The main thing to remember, which is more important than the grade, is to understand the flavours and aromas of tea as this is what counts the most.

You can have high grades of tea as far as leaf-size goes and yet they may have been poorly processed, so unless you taste the teas you will never know.

FTGFOP is a grade that has been jokingly referred to as “Far Too Good For Ordinary People”.

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An Overview of the Tea Plant

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Tea comes from the leaves and buds of the plant known as camellia sinensis. This plant is a relation of camellia japonica.

There are over more than 500 different tea varietals but the two main types are camellia sinensis var sinensis and camellia sinensis var assamica. Camellia sinensis var sinensis is grown in China and can grow up to six metres in height and last more than 100 years, while camellia sinensis var assamica is mainly grown in India and Sri Lanka to a height of approximately 30 metres with a lifespan of about 30 to 50 years.

Terroir is the word used to describe the characteristics of the plantation on which the tea is grown, and includes variables such as the soil, climate, altitude and location (latitude). These important factors influence the end flavour of the tea and the growth of the camellia sinensis plant. The terroir therefore changes the characteristics of the plant and accounts for the different flavours and aromas in tea.

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